Boredom and Overcoming It
This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution. To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.
Discussion Question: Have you ever had a boring job?
Both work at a job and work in the home can feel boring sometimes. This is especially true if the work you’re doing feels routine or lacks meaning. That doesn’t mean you should quit your job or give up housework forever. Instead, look to the Bible for ways to counteract boredom with work.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
If your work is repetitive, you’re likely to get bored after a while. The writer of Ecclesiastes describes work as “toil” for this very reason. But he also says that it’s God’s gift to enjoy this toil. How does God give that gift? How do we get it?
One clue comes from a seventeenth century monk who worked in the monastery kitchen. In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence describes how he learned to feel God’s presence, even while washing dishes, by thinking about God's love in that moment. In a similar way, the famous nun Theresa of Lisieux practiced living in the moment to combat boredom. “If I did not simply live from one moment to another,” she wrote, “it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.”
If your work is repetitive, ask God to be with you in your work. Be present in the work you’re doing right at this moment. See if this changes your experience.
Discussion Question: What task do you do over and over? How do you feel when you’re doing it?
Sometimes boredom comes from the idea that your work isn’t meaningful. There are several people in the Bible who probably felt like this. Esther is one of them. She spent months primping in a harem, not knowing when the king would call on her. And yet because of her boring job, she was able to save the Jewish people when crisis hit. Her cousin Mordecai guessed that she had "come to royal dignity for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14)
Discussion Question: What are the hidden opportunities of sticking with a boring job?
Like with Esther waiting for the king to summon her, your work may have a hidden meaning that you can’t see now. Maybe it will be revealed with time. Or maybe you can ask your family or friends if they have any ideas about the meaning of your work. Or ask God to show you the meaning. This could short-circuit boredom with work.
Lastly, if your work is really unenjoyable, let yourself cry out to God about your boredom. The psalmist writes “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1) If you are really unhappy at your job, share it with God in prayer.
Discussion Question: How have you dealt with boredom in the past? How do you plan on dealing with boredom in the future?